I just interviewed NICHELLE NICHOLS…how cool is that???

As many fans know, beloved Star Trek TOS actress NICHELLE NICHOLS is embarking on a year-long farewell convention tour…culminating next May in Burbank, CA. Although Nichelle had a minor stroke back in 2015, and she’s 86 years old, she’s still going strong enough to appear in nearly a half dozen cons around the country.

The last time I saw her in person was in late 2016, when my then six-year-old son Jayden photo-bombed a picture she was taking with WALTER KOENIG on a partial TNG bridge recreation at a convention in Los Angeles. I told Jayden to get out of Riker’s seat, but Nichelle insisted that he stay for a photo—and it’s one that I’ll always treasure…

I love Nichelle. I think it’s fair to say that all fans love Nichelle! I can’t recall ever hearing a single negative thing said about this warm, gracious, talented, and elegant actress who gave women of color in the 1960s and beyond a precedent-setting character to admire and aspire to someday be like themselves. And indeed, starting in the 1970s, Nichelle was recruited by NASA to encourage promising women and ethnic minorities to become astronauts—among them was Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and Charles Bolden, the NASA administrator until last year.

Nichelle has always loved her fans right back, and has been one of the major Star Trek actors to agree to portray her character in multiple fan films (along with GEORGE TAKEI, WALTER KOENIG, GRACE LEE WHITNEY, TIM RUSS, ROBERT PICARDO, GARY GRAHAM, and a few others). Nichelle appeared as Uhura in both STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN and later as simply “The Admiral” in the de-Trekified RENEGADES two-part episode “The Requiem.” She will also be adding her voice talents to another upcoming Star Trek fan film.

So imagine my excitement and jubilation when I discovered that SKY CONWAY, Nichelle’s long-time friend and business partner (and the producer of Renegades and Of Gods and Men), is pitching the idea for a documentary on Nichelle’s life and ground-breaking career. After the success of Adam Nimoy’s tribute to his father, FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK, a similar spotlight on Nichelle Nichols seems like a no-brainer!

Sky has set up an Indiegogo campaign seeking to raise $25,000 (in just 16 days!) to create a “sizzle reel” to help pitch the full project to investors. This sizzle reel will include a two-day shoot on the Neutral Zone Studios TOS sets in Kingsland, GA. Just imagine Uhura back on the bridge of the USS Enterprise!

The brief crowd-funder got off to an explosive start, raising $10,000 in just three days. And it’s now nearly 60% of the way to its goal with just six days left. I’ve already listed it here on Fan Film Factor, but when I reached out to Sky Conway to get a quick quote from him or Nichelle, he invited me to write up some questions and do an actual interview.

Really? That’s totally awesome!

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RENEGADES has lots of MERCHANDISE for sale!

Looking for that perfect after-Christmas gift for the fan film aficionado in your life? How about something from the RENEGADES merchandise collection?

The Renegades folks first began producing their own branded perks waaaaaay back in 2012 when they held their first Kickstarter and raised an amazing $242,483 from 2,367 backers. At that point, the perks were fairly simple: a special edition DVD of the completed Star Trek: Renegades fan film (back then, producing DVDs with the words “Star Trek” on the cover as perks was allowed), a CD compilation of the music, and an extra DVD and soundtrack for Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, their first fan production from back in 2008. There was also an “I’m a Renegade” T-shirt and autographed cast photos.

The following year, their next campaign—an Indiegogo that generated an additional $132,555 from 1500 backers—introduced a prop replica of their Starfleet comm badge from about ten years after Voyager‘s return.

By the time they reached their fourth crowdfunding campaign in November 2015—a Kickstarter for the first full episode “The Requiem”that took in just over $378,000 from 3,379 backers—they had added a patch (of course!) and a mini-poster signed by all of the cast. And even though this poster saidStar Trek: Renegades,” remember that this was STILL half a year before CBS released their fan film guidelines (and two months before Axanar got sued for copyright infringement).

Of course, once the guidelines came out, Renegades quickly dropped the “Star Trek” from its branding (becoming Renegades: The Series), and surgically removed all traces of CBS-owned intellectual property from their next production.

The good news for show-runner SKY CONWAY and fans of Renegades is that this change in branding means that these folks can now sell whatever merchandise they want to based on their fan film content and CBS can’t say a darned thing…yay!

And sell it, they shall! The loot is all located on THE ATOMIC NETWORK website (that’s where Renegades and other productions from those folks are streaming from). And if you’re a fan of the Renegades fan series (as I am), you’ll find this all VERY exciting!

Here’s what they’re offering (with descriptions taken from their website)…

Continue reading “RENEGADES has lots of MERCHANDISE for sale!”

COZMO’S Kickstarter asks for $16,000…winds up with $54,397!

I think we can call this one a successful campaign!  The team that produced RENEGADES opened their Kickstarter to fund post-production on their new original series pilot for COZMO’S  to the general public on Tuesday , October 23… having already passed their $16,000 goal!  In fact, by the time they went “live,” donations had actually topped $22,000!

How did they manage that?

They invited supporters on their mailing list—who had already donated more than a million dollars to their previous successful crowd-funders for Renegades)—to get special access to a 48-hour “pre-launch” with exclusive access to certain perks.  Yep, if you’re crowd-funding, it helps to have an existing base of supporters to call on!

It also helps when you have a cast that includes actors from Star Trek and Babylon 5 in your pilot episode:

  • Ethan (“Neelix”) Phillips
  • Robert (“The EMH Doctor”) Picardo
  • Aron (“Nog”) Eisenberg
  • Claudia (“Susan Ivanova”) Christian
  • Plus many other professional actions from sci-fi and related genres

Also, the footage (which was all shot back in early 2017 using sets originally constructed for Renegades‘ “The Requiem”) was directed by Stephen Furst (Vir from Babylon 5…who tragically passed away during June of last year).

The Kickstarter ended its 4-week run reaching $54,397 from 865 backers (including me).  You can read a brief interview with show-runner SKY CONWAY about the production that I posted just as the campaign kicked off.  And if you haven’t checked out the trailer for this hilarious “Cheers in Space” series from sci-fi lovers like you, take 82 seconds to check it out:

The campaign surged past two stretch goals.  At $40,000, fans were able to fund…

  • improved quality of music and postproduction
  • a release of Ralph McQuarrie concept art for Cozmo’s 
  • a release of exclusive Cozmo’s deleted scene #1

Once past $45,000, fans also unlocked…

  • a release of new Cozmo’s THEME SONG
  • a release of exclusive Cozmo’s deleted scene #2

Currently, the plan is to complete and release Cozmo’s by June of 2019 on the Atomic Network and to any donor who contributed $17 or more.

COZMO’S Kickstarter blasts through its $16K goal…BEFORE it even launches???

If only every Kickstarter could be this way!  The 4-week crowd-funding campaign for COZMO’S from the team that produced RENEGADES went live to the general public Tuesday at 11:00 am Pacific Time with a goal of $16,000.  But it had already blasted through that goal and was above $22,00 when the world found out about it.  (Now it’s up even higher at nearly $25,000!)

How the heck did this happen???

Well, it helps when you have an existing database of thousands of fans who contributed to your previous successful crowd-funders for Renegades )to the tune of more than a million dollars!).  And it helps when you open your Kickstarter with a special 48-hour “pre-launch” with exclusive access to certain perks.

It also helps when you have a cast that includes actors from Star Trek and Babylon 5 in your pilot episode:

  • Ethan (“Neelix”) Phillips
  • Robert (“The EMH Doctor”) Picardo
  • Aron (“Nog”) Eisenberg
  • Claudia (“Susan Ivanova”) Christian
  • Plus many other professional actions from sci-fi and related genres

Also, the footage (which was all shot back in early 2017 using sets originally constructed for Renegades‘ “The Requiem”) was directed by Stephen Furst (Vir from Babylon 5…who tragically passed away during June of last year).

The project is billed as “Cheers in Space”…

Cozmo’s Thirsty Tentacle Bar and Grill is a local hotspot—well, local to anyone visiting an asteroid—where an enormous variety of lifeforms visit to party, do business dealings, find work, meet their true love…or just to get drunk and alien-watch. 

The owner of this esteemed establishment is, of course, Cozmo, a four-tentacled alien (played by Ethan Phillips), who has a knack for mixing stellar martinis and giving good advice.  His serving staff includes two humans, Kallie, played by Renee Olstead(13 Going on 30), and Ken, played by Drake Bell (Drake and Josh, Ultimate Spiderman). They’d love their jobs if it weren’t for one tiny detail—humans are the butt of the joke of the entire galaxy.

The hilarity never stops as zany characters like a hermaphrodite with blue hair (Robert Picardo), a crustacean-like madam (Claudia Christian), an alien who’s head is shaped like a….well, like a butt (Aron Eisenberg), and so many others swarm, bump, argue, laugh, and scheme at Cozmo’s!

It looks hilarious (and very well-produced!)…

 

Heck, I threw in $35 myself before lunchtime on Monday!

You can donate by clicking here.

I asked show-runner SKY CONWAY a few questions about the project…

Continue reading “COZMO’S Kickstarter blasts through its $16K goal…BEFORE it even launches???”

A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2016-2017 (feature, part 5)

Last time, the world of Star Trek fan films was shaken to its core by a copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar Productions in late December of 2015 followed by a call to Tommy Kraft of Star Trek: Horizon in April of 2016 telling him to shut down his new $250,000 Kickstarter for his sequel, Star Trek: Federation Rising.

And what of STAR TREK: RENEGADES?  In November, they had raised a very impressive $375,000 for their new continuing series.  Even though CBS had rejected their offer to make Renegades into a pilot for a new Trek TV series (and by now, Star Trek: Discovery had been announced), the Renegades team hadn’t been told to stop.  So it was full steam ahead with plans to use the existing sets and CGI models and props to make an ambitious TWELVE half-hour webisodes per year (yes, per year…that was the plan), beginning with a two-parter called “The Requiem.”  It would feature both Nichelle Nichols as Uhura and Walter Koenig playing Chekov for one final swan song.

Although Trek fan filmmakers were feeling very uncertain (and downright nervous) at the moment—with the Axanar lawsuit dragging on for months and mixed messages coming from JJ Abrams and the studios themselves—the show must go on, as they say.  And so Star Trek: Renegades scheduled the first day of filming on “The Requiem” for June 22, 2016.

The initial scenes on day one were all green screen, featuring Nichelle and Walter, Tim Russ as Tuvok in full Vulcan make-up, and even Cirroc Lofton reprising his role as Jake Sisko.  The production would also feature other veteran Trek actors reprising their roles, including Terry Farrel as “Jadzia” (minus the Dax symbiont), Robert Beltran as Chakotay, Aron Eisenberg as Nog, and even Hana Hatae as a grown-up Molly O’Brien!  The sets were built, the costumes made, the studio rented…it was time to make an awesome new fan series!

And then the guidelines happened…

Continue reading “A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2016-2017 (feature, part 5)”

A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2015-2016 (feature, part 4)

Last time, it had been a long road for STAR TREK: RENEGADES… getting from there to here.  “There” was a an idea back in 2006, on the last day of filming Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, of a “Star Trek meets The Dirty Dozen” fan series concept…maybe even a pilot to pitch to CBS!  And “here” was the Crest Theater in Westwood, August 1, 2015, for the red carpet premiere of a 90-minute, $400,000 Star Trek “fan” film with veteran actors and professionals working alongside amateurs and novices…all for the love and passion of a sci-fi franchise that hadn’t seen a new television episode in more than a decade!

In between were three different crowd-funding campaigns, many months of pre-production, two weeks of studio shooting with 61 actors and a total crew of 170, nearly two years of post production, and 637 different visual effects shots.  And it all led to this moment with a movie marquis on Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles that read:

SKY CONWAY PRESENTS
STAR TREK RENEGADES

There were two showings, each with a limited number of tickets available (the theater only seats 460, and there were cast members and crew in attendance, as well).  The Renegades team made 325 tickets available to donors and the general public for the first showing at 4:30 pm for $20 each (and that’s when I made my first donation to the project).  And thanks to a friend of mine who worked on the production, I was able to get in again for the second 7:30 pm showing that was intended to be exclusively for cast, crew, and the media.

It was quite the happening!  The first showing was mainly fans, many in costume.  But after the theater was cleared from that audience, the red carpet and “runway” background were set up, the Paparazzi began to assemble (seriously, there were more than a dozen of them…including me!), and the limousines started arriving.  Yes, there were limousines.

Nichelle Nichols (who came to support her friend Walter Koenig), Adrienne Wilkinson, and Robert Picardo arrive on the red carpet for the premiere.

Wanna see what it looked like inside?

Continue reading “A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2015-2016 (feature, part 4)”

A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2014-2015 (feature, part 3)

Last time, eight years after first being conceived in 2006 on the final day of shooting Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, the dream of STAR TREK: RENEGADES was nearly complete.  Two crowd-funding campaigns had provided the producers with $375,000 to spend (minus fees, perk production, and mailing costs).  All of the footage was shot (directed by Tim “Tuvok” Russ) in October of 2013, the final “locked picture” edit had been approved in April of 2014, and now it was time for music, sound, and visual effects (VFX).

Unfortunately, the money was now all used up, and the VFX were going to be significantly more expensive than they thought…like tens of thousands of dollars more!

Was Renegades ready for a THIRD crowd-funding campaign???

Continue reading “A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2014-2015 (feature, part 3)”

A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2012-2014 (feature, part 2)

Last time, we took a look at the origins of the “mega” Trek fan film STAR TREK: RENEGADES, created by the same people who produced the first “mega” Trek fan film, STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN back in 2006-2008.  (You can read more about that earlier project in this blog entry.)

I say “mega” for a few reasons.  First, each production would wind up with a run-time of about 90-minutes, way longer than the vast majority of other Trek fan films.  Second, these were a professionally-produced “fan” films with industry veterans and a slew of Hollywood actors, some of whom were reprising their roles from various Paramount-produced Star Trek series and movies.  And finally, each had a budget in the six-figures.  At the time, most Trek fan films were low-budget or, at most, made it into the four-or-five-figure range.  But when you were spending more than a hundred thousand dollars (potentially a LOT more), well, that spells “mega” to me!

Of course, if you want to spend six figures, you need to first generate six figures…and back in 2012, no Star Trek crowd-funding campaign had managed to break above the low four-figure range.

But Star Trek: Renegades set out to change that reality in a BIG way.  In late September of that year, they launched a Kickstarter with a seemingly impossible goal: $200,000.  And if they didn’t reach it, they would get nothing…

Continue reading “A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2012-2014 (feature, part 2)”

I just had an AWESOME fan film week! (personal)

My life isn’t usually all that interesting or exciting…at least, not all in one week.  But what a week it was!

(Actually, it was only really exciting if you happen to be a Trekkie interested in fan films.  If you’re my wife, it’s more like, “That’s nice, honey.  I’m glad you had such a good time.  Did you remember to empty the dishwasher?”

And that’s why I’m writing this blog—because I have now emptied the dishwasher, and I really want to tell you guys about the fan film filled week I just had…because you care, right?  (Aw don’t answer that; it’ll just kill my buzz.)

Continue reading “I just had an AWESOME fan film week! (personal)”

A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2006-2012 (feature, part 1)

RENEGADES: THE SERIES just hosted a movie theater premiere in North Hollywood, California for their first full one-hour episode, “The Requiem.”  But before there was Renegades: The Series, there was STAR TREK: RENEGADES, one of the largest, most ambitious fan film projects ever attempted.

Nearly four hundred thousand dollars in crowd-funding, multiple Star Trek veteran actors reprising their roles from the various TV series, paid industry professionals on both sides of the camera, two years in the making, enthusiastic plans to present this to CBS as a potential pilot for a new Star Trek TV series, and even a gala Los Angeles red carpet premiere at the historic Crest Theater in Westwood.

Looked at through the hindsight lens of the constraining limitations of the post-guidelines reality we now live in, it’s hard to imagine that something like STAR TREK: RENEGADES could even have been attempted, let alone successfully completed and released with such fanfare.  How on earth (or in space) did they manage it?

Continue reading “A history of STAR TREK: RENEGADES – 2006-2012 (feature, part 1)”